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Thursday, June 6, 2019

SALUTE TO SENATOR ELECT ROCHAS ANAYO OKOROCHA — DR UCHE DIALA



"Many people probably would judge former Imo State Governor, now Senator Elect Rochas Okorocha based on what they know in the last 8 years of his life when he was a Governor of Imo State. My submission has absolutely nothing to do with that. Posterity is compiling the judgement on that.

I'm more moved to talk about who he was before he found his way into government from my personal experience. Many times the true character of people are better judged by what they have done and who they were outside and before getting into power.

As far back as 2003, I was watching NTA one day and there was a documentary on 'ROCHAS FOUNDATION COLLEGE". On focus that day was the school in Jos. I later made further enquires and I found there was also such a school on Kano and other parts of Nigeria and the students did not pay school fees.

I became very curious about how a Southern Christian of Igbo extraction could be running schools in the Northern part of the country, not for Christians or Southerners alone but for children of all tribes and religions alike? I made a decision that day that if those schools were real, I would do something personal, no matter how little or insignificant to contribute to that vision and to appreciate what this man Rochas Okorocha was doing for humanity. 

Subsequently I wrote a letter to Rochas Foundation in Abuja informing them of my intention to carry out Free Vision Screening (Eye examinations) for students and staff of Rochas Foundation College, Kano. I got an approval.

I had left Kano in 2000 after a 4 year stay there and I had to travel to Kano from Abuja, spent 3 days (all at my own expense including transport  and accommodation) and examined the eyes of all the staff and students of Rochas Foundation College Kano. 

While that trip offered me the opportunity to buy into a good Cause, it also gave me an opportunity to confirm first hand that the Rochas Foundation College was no gimmick. There were Nigerian children of all tribes and faith being schooled under one roof free of charge and Nigerians being paid as Teacher by the effort of an individual who had never held any elected public office by then. The full import of that was not lost me and it helped to strengthen my belief in Nigeria and humanity.

When I returned to Abuja after the exercise, I had to go to Rochas Foundation Office in Area 11 Abuja located in a building named 'Unity House'. I was met by a scene reminiscent of a political Party office in an election period. Just that I knew for a fact that that was no Party office and that was surely no election period. The sheer number of physically challenged persons of all tribal and religious extraction, on a wheel chairs, improvised motorised roller skaters, holding walking canes etc stretching from inside the building to the gate was simply a sight to behold. I was to later learn that they all gather there seeking one form of assistance or the other from Rochas Okorocha's Foundation.

Anyways I made my way though the maze of people into the building and sat at the reception downstairs to wait for the Director General. In my usual nature, I got impatient at a point and loudly complained to the staff around. I mean I'm not looking for anything. I only came to submit a report of what I did and go.

Somehow my protest got upstairs and I was asked to come upstairs. Halfway up I saw a man walking down the stairs with a kind of stylish limp and behold I met Rochas Okorocha (for the first time) coming down to meet me himself. I overheard him saying how many times do we have someone doing something for us free and you are keeping this person waiting. Apparently angry that I was kept waiting. We met on the stairs and he thanked me profusely and instructed that a letter of commendation be givimg to me. Well I never went back for the letter. Since he become my state Governor, apart from meeting in public gatherings, I've not had any other dealings with him. But that first impression stuck in my mind.

This reminiscence came to me as I was watching pictures of Okorocha with students of Rochas Foundation College and serving food to some students during breaking of fast this past Ramadan season. Some people who are not well informed or who have not been observant might think it's political grandstanding and hypocrisy but he truly loves children, values education and truly believes in the unity of Nigeria. Always has.

I'm glad I'm writing this after he has left office so I won't be accused of praise singing. 

As an aside, as a matter of fact, even though I'm convinced that an Igbo Presidency in 2023 is now a political tall order barring a miracle, for those who still care, if such is remotely possible, it can best be anchored around such an Igbo man who has rosen above a narrow ethnic mindset worked and proven to have a pan Nigerian outlook with genuine acceptability across regional and ethnic boundries. 

It's my prayer and confidence that posterity will judge him fairly. I wish him well."

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